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Kitchen Table Talk: A People's Guide to the proposed 2012 Alabama Constitutional Amendments

Kitchen Table Talk: A People's Guide to the proposed 2012 Alabama Constitutional Amendments

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Published by alabamavoice
Research, information resources, and commentary on the proposed 2012 Alabama Constitutional Amendments from a people's interest perspective in order to consider the amendments with an open mind.
Research, information resources, and commentary on the proposed 2012 Alabama Constitutional Amendments from a people's interest perspective in order to consider the amendments with an open mind.

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Published by: alabamavoice on Oct 18, 2012
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 Kitchen Table Talk:
A People's Guide to the 2012 Alabama Constitutional Amendments
of Arab, Alabama
There is one place in an Alabama home where life's struggles are won andlost, where battles are waged and plans are laid. It is also the place wherewe gather 'round with our friends and loved ones, eat and rejoice in theLord's many blessings of life. Sometimes we just sit there with a cup of coffee to think, but there is no doubt that the kitchen table is where many of life's problems are confronted. It is often where we sit to pay the monthly bills, and here recently I think we've all spent more time there trying tofigure out how to make it all work.When it's time to sit down at the kitchen table and decide what to do, weneed the best information possible. It is not a time for platitudes or fancytalk, we need to know the real deal. Deciding on Constitutionalamendments is the same. They are often controversial because of the great impact they have on our daily lives.Their true meanings are sometimes shrouded in misinformation and distorted facts promoted by million dollar lobbying efforts which can make them hard to decipher. Sometimes even the ballot language is misleading. Thisyear's round of constitutional amendments are no different.That's why I sat down at my kitchen table and did a lot of research on them. I'm not suggesting how you vote onany of them, but I am glad to share what I learned and my thoughts on them. Below each amendment I willinclude links to some of the resources I used in considering the amendments along with links to the original textof the amendments. From my kitchen table to yours...Click HERE for the Secretary of State's certification of the amendments and ballot languageClick HERE to view sample ballots for all Counties in Alabama
Amendment 1,
also known as the Forever Wild Amendment, will commit up to $300 million dollars of State funds to purchase new land for public and recreational use. Forever Wild will receive up to $15 milliondollars per year for 20 years from interest earned on the Alabama Trust Fund.Proponents maintain that this program is necessary to preserve the natural heritage of our State for futuregenerations' public use.Opponents point to current State budgetary problems as reason enough to halt the land purchases.Forever Wild has acquired more than 227,000 acres since its creation in 1992. Hunting is allowed on someland tracts, but not our County's three sites: Eagle Roost View, Monsanto and Cathedral Caverns-Kirkland.Surprisingly, the public is prohibited or discouraged from visiting some Forever Wild land, such asColdwater Mountain in Calhoun County or our own Monsanto.Maintenance of current Forever Wild land holdings is provided for in the 1992 amendment. They currentlyhave about $40 million on hand for that purpose. Further, this amendment does not affect funding for our State parks, which have other revenue sources.
There are some major lobbying efforts for and against this amendment:
What I used:
Visit the People's Advocate @ http://alabamavoice.wordpress.com“  Audemus jura nostra defendere!” Page 1
Forever Wild interactive map(when you click on a FW land purchase click on “More tract info” which is whereI got information such as that of access onColdwater Mountain“...there are no authorized avenues for  public access onto the mountain.” andMonsanto“visitation through the tract is strongly discouragedduring winter months and absolutely no hunting is allowed at any time.”TEXT of Alabama Amendment 543 which created Forever Wild in 1992
 My two cents...
I am voting NO. Though I am an avid outdoorsman, and wanted to support this program, therealities are that right now is not the time to commit up to $300 million to purchase land. I would love to buyabout 100 acres of pristine forest myself, but I do not have the money so reality is I cannot. The Legislature justconvinced Alabama voters on September 18 that our State finances were SO BAD that we had to raid theAlabama Trust Fund just to keep the lights on at the State House. How can they now say we have the extramoney to blow on land purchases? I found much misinformation associated with this amendment and theForever Wild program. This program is NOT as our politicians would have us to believe.
Amendment 2
can be confusing without an understanding of general obligation bonds (GO bonds) andrefunding bonds.GO bonds enable our lawmakers to borrow money by pledging the full faith and credit of the State of Alabama. Our Constitution prevents the government from issuing GO bonds without authorization throughamendment. This means that voters must approve most debt before it is incurred.In 2000, voters approved an amendment that granted that ability for the purposes of economic developmentand local infrastructure improvements but limited the total debt to $350 million. In 2007, we agreed to raise thecap on the debt to $750 million. Our current outstanding GO bond debt is estimated to be approximately $600million dollars.Amendment 2 will allow the State to issue refunding bonds so that the original debt can be refinanced atlower interest rates, which is expected to save the State money. Under current law, each GO bond must be paidin full before the State can borrow again.This amendment will also allow the State to incur new debt up to the cap as the old debt is paid off.Proponents say this is necessary to promote industry and create jobs by providing State funding throughincentives to new businesses. Opponents fear it will lead to the State perpetually carrying debt close to the $750million limit.George Washington once said, “To contract new debts is not the way to pay old ones.”
What I used:
Alabama Constitution (1901), annotated copy. 
 My two cents...
I am voting NO. The above list is a fraction of the research I did on general obligation bonds andrefunding bonds. I also had many conversations on the topic with people much smarter than I to help meunderstand exactly what we are voting on. I am grateful for their assistance. I think it is significant thataccording to Fitch Ratings, Alabama has already issued general obligation refunding bonds on current GO bond
Visit the People's Advocate @ http://alabamavoice.wordpress.com“  Audemus jura nostra defendere!” Page 2
debt so this amendment is clearly not designed to give them that authority, but to grant them additional authorityin contracting new debt. It does not change the cap on maximum debt which remains at $750 million but thisamendment will allow them to contract new State debt without first repaying the old debt which is requirednow, and I think it is good policy to pay off the old debt before acquiring new debt. I agree that it could becomea perpetual line of credit for the State which I am solidly against. A portion of the Alabama Constitution waswritten expressly to prevent perpetual lines of credit on the people's name for politicians. I based my estimate of $600 million of current debt on information given to me by a local legislator, there is no list I could find whichdetails all the current bonds issued and their amounts. The Fitch Ratings document lists only some of them if thelegislator's estimate is to be believed. I think it is important to know that the recent approval of the September 18 Amendment is widely seen by ratings agencies as a credit negative. This could cause the interest rates we arecharged on our debt to go up. I found out more about our State's debt on the websites of other Stategovernments than anything provided by our own websites which is disturbing. Some legislators, such has StateRep. Wes Long, would have us believe this matter is as simple as taking out a second home mortgage (which inand of itself is no simple matter). This is misinformation. However, to take their logic, which one of thesemakes more sense...taking out a second mortgage to get lower interest rates? Or paying off the first one as soonas possible and thereby saving money on future interest charges? I agree wholeheartedly with the MostHonorable George Washington on this one. I bet financial guru Dave Ramsey would agree with both of us.
Amendment 3
will prevent the forced annexation of the Stockton Landmark District into any adjoiningmunicipalities in Baldwin County. The amendment would require the approval of area residents beforeannexation could take place in the future.
What I used:
Alabama Constitution (1901), annotated copy. 
 My two cents...
I am voting YES. I normally abstain on statewide amendments with purely local implications.There are times though when local amendments can affect other areas as well. While this is not one of thoseinstances, I am an ardent supporter of local folks deciding their own fates and not being forced annexed intosurrounding municipalities seeking to increase their own tax bases.
Amendment 4
removes racial language in the Education Article of the Alabama Constitution [Art. XIV,§ 256-270 and related amendments], which remains from the Jim Crow era. It will also remove references to poll taxes, which have been ruled unconstitutional by the courts.A prior attempt to revise this article failed, but the controversial language has since been removed.
What I used:
 My two cents...
I am voting YES.
Since the controversial language has been removed, I see no point in opposingthe amendment. It should have no real effect but to remove divisive language, which I believe is a good thing.
Amendment 5
aims to dissolve the water works and sewer board of the City of Prichard and transfer its
Visit the People's Advocate @ http://alabamavoice.wordpress.com“  Audemus jura nostra defendere!” Page 3

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Debbie Miller added this note
Linda McKay, I shared your confusion at first. After re-reading it, I understood more clearly. It is explaining how things are now as opposed to what the amendment passing would change. I personally agree with 'alabamavoice' in a NO decision.
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